Simon, together with the beautiful Gayle (Kathryn Lee Scott), is enjoying a weekend in Paris. On the way back to their hotel room, he’s distracted by a series of screams from a nearby room. The occupant is an Italian woman who tells Simon that she’s had a nightmare which foretells her husband’s death.
In her dream, they’re both riding in an open-top carriage in London (by her description, it’s clear that they’re travelling through Parliament Square). She then hysterically tells Simon that during the journey her husband is shot dead. Amongst the details she remembers is that the assassin has very blonde, almost white, hair. When Simon learns that her husband is Dr Bernardo de Vallesi, Italy’s new ambassador to Britain (who is due to travel to the UK shortly) it appears that there may be some truth in her strange story.
The Nightmare Man is an odd one. At first it seems that Mrs de Vallesi’s nightmare is simply a clumsy way of ensuring that the Saint takes an interest in the story. But when Simon meets Dr de Vallesi, he’s introduced to his wife (who isn’t the woman from the hotel room) so the plot thickens. But the problem with the story is that all the action takes part in the last ten minutes or so and it’s a long slog to get there.
The real reason for the presence of the assassin is frankly bonkers and makes no sense at all. It’s been organised by Colonel Ramon Perez (John Bennett). He’s a bitter and vengeful man who lives for one reason only – to make the man responsible for his downfall pay. That man, of course, is Simon Templar (but why he chose this plan is anybody’s guess).
Another problem with the story is the choice of Joss Ackland as the assassin, Gunther. Ackland is an actor of many qualities, but this part doesn’t play to his strengths. Gunther’s a cruel and psychotic man, but there’s never any sense of menace from Ackland. The tone is set from his opening appearance – it’s hard to fear a man with such an obvious wig and flapping flared trousers!
There’s some unlikely casting – the diminutive Welsh actor Roy Evans as a supplier of guns and Stanley Lebor as a mercenary. Although in Lebor’s case, this may be because now he’s probably best known for the Richard Briers sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles (back in the seventies he did play his fair share of heavies).
His encounter with the Saint is rather amusing. He’s holding court in what’s supposed to be a rather rough pub (in which Simon is obviously meant to stand out). In fact, it doesn’t really look too threatening at all – social realism was never a strong point of Return of the Saint.
Some nice location shooting in London apart, there’s not much to recommend in this one. Two and a half halos out of five.